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Austria looks for 3rd team win at Sochi Games

February 19, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Austria will attempt to win its third consecutive team large hill gold medal when the event closes out the Sochi Olympics Nordic combined program at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on Thursday.

Four competitors on each team will get one jump off the ski hill before combined points will be used to determine which skier from the leading country gets a head start in the relay-style 4x5-kilometer cross-country race.

Each member of the team will do two circuits of the 2.5-kilometer-long course that includes the landing area of the ski jump.

Here are five things to know about the Nordic combined large hill team event:

MEDAL MILESTONES: Austria can become the first country to win the team title three times in a row — Japan is the only other country to have won it in back-to-back Games, in 1992 and 1994 when the Winter Olympics were held two years apart to remove them from the same four-year rotation as the Summer Games. Mario Stecher, a member of 2010 gold medal-winning team for Austria, can become the first athlete to win three gold medals in Nordic combined.

LOOKING FOR AN EDGE: Norway, the birthplace of the sport, has a medal of each color going into the final event — Joergen Graabak and Magnus Moan finished one-two in the large hill, Magnus Krog took bronze in the normal hill. Germany has two medals — Eric Frenzel’s win in the normal hill and a bronze for Fabian Riessle in the large hill. Akito Watabe of Japan took silver in the normal hill behind Frenzel to counter Norway and Germany’s dominance.

IS FRENZEL FIT?: Germany’s gold medal chances on Thursday will depend on the health of World Cup leader Eric Frenzel, who has won seven races this season. Due to a virus, Frenzel was nearly a scratch from the large hill, ended up winning the ski jumping component, but faded to 10th after the 10-kilometer cross-country race Tuesday.

CONCERNS OVER HILL AND COURSE: Three ski jumping training jumps planned for Wednesday were canceled due to the condition of the landing area on the large hill, which race director Lasse Ottesen called “a huge ice block” after rain throughout the day Tuesday damaged that area during the individual event. It also affected the condition of the artificial snow on the cross-country course. Conditions were clear, cold and sunny Wednesday, and officials hoped that might improve the situation Thursday.

LAST CHANCE FOR AMERICANS: Four years ago in Vancouver, the United States won four Nordic combined medals — Billy Demong’s gold in the large hill, the now-retired Johnny Spillane’s silvers in the normal and large hills, and a silver in the team. The Americans haven’t been anywhere near the podium this time around, a situation Demong, veteran Todd Lodwick (a member of the silver medal-winning team in 2010) and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher will try to change on Thursday.

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